history, What I am reading

What I am reading… the death of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrígo Borgia)

From Christopher Hibbert, The Borgias and their enemies, 1431-1519, two anecdotes from the death of the great Borgia pope, so superbly played by Jeremy Irons:

1. After the Pope’s death, Cesare Borgia sent his military black operations man, Miguel de Corella, into the Pope’s apartment with information on where his valuable treasures were stored.

“He then marched into the Pope’s bedchamber, where he found Cardinal Casanova and, holding a life to his throat, threatened to cut it open and throw him out of the window if he did not hand over the keys to the cupboards and closets… The terrified cardinal handed over the keys without protest, whereupon Corella and his men unlocked the chests and appropriated the money and silver they contained; according to Giustinian’s report to the Venetian Senate, they removed coins, silver, and jewels worth 500,000 ducats.”

2. The Pope’s corpse quickly discoloured and swelled after death. The loyal scholarly secretary to the pope, Buchard, reported:

“The carpenters had made the coffin too narrow and too short and so they had to remove the mitre from the Pope’s head and place it by his side, before rolling up his body in an old carpet, and pummelling and pushing it into the coffin with their fists… no wax tapers or candles were used and no priests nor any other persons attended the body.”

No wealth, power nor office could save Pope Rodrígo Borgia from the indignity of death.

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